As a trainer, I have heard many myths from women about why they do not want to lift weights. One of the most common misconceptions is that they will “bulk up” and gain weight. While this is somewhat true initially, the muscle that a woman is putting on will eventually help to burn off the excess fat. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), knowing your body type is important when designing a strength training routine.
“We are predisposed to respond to exercise in a particular way, in large part, because of our genetics. Our genetic makeup determines what types of muscle fibers we have and where they are distributed. It determines our ratio of testosterone to estrogen and where we store body fat. And it also determines our body type.”
According to ACE, all women fall under one of three body classifications or have characteristics from one of these types. The determining factor in classifying body types is the percentage of the hormones testosterone as compared to estrogen. Where on our body we are pre-disposed to storing body fat also plays a role.
ACE described the characteristics of each body type in this way: “Mesomorphs tend to be muscular, endomorphs are more rounded and voluptuous and ectomorphs are slim or linear in shape. Mesomorphs respond to strength training by building muscle mass much faster than their ectomorphic counterparts, even though they may be following identical training regimens. Endomorphs generally need to lose body fat in order to see a change in size or shape as a result of strength training. Ectomorphs are less likely to build muscle mass but will become stronger as a result of resistance training.”
I can speak to my experience as a lifelong endomorph who has had significant results after weight training. I did however also do quite a bit of cardiovascular activity to burn fat, but it was when I added in the strength training that I saw significant results. I tell you this, because I do not want fellow endomorphs to think they will “bulk up” from lifting weights. As an endomorph I would advise lifting lighter weights doing a total body workout with more repetitions to keep your heart rate up while lifting the weights.
Mesomorphs build muscle easily, so a split routine, picking a few body parts a day works best for them. If you are an ectomorph and want a shapelier, muscular look, heavier weights and fewer repetitions will help you build muscle.
Weight training is especially important for women to increase bone density. It will also help raise your metabolism by increasing your muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn all day long. Weight training is also important to help you with everyday activities because it will improve your coordination and balance.
The American College of Sports Medicine agreed, stating, “Because women naturally have less muscle mass than men, strength training can help make everyday activities easier, such as picking up the kids, carrying groceries, or working on household projects. Older women should be more proactive about age-related sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) as a means of combating frailty.”
My advice is to focus on getting healthy and strong and getting the best results for your body type. Do not get discouraged because your shape does not look like the person next to you in the gym. We are all unique with our own genetic makeup. Embrace what is good instead of harping on flaws.
Reviewed June 14, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton
Joanne Sgro is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training. Joanne's fitness plans and recipes are available globally on her website www.fitnessanswer.com. She resides in the Phoenix, AZ with her fiancé, where she runs her personal training business, Fitness Answer, LLC.